When Sesame Street features “One of these things is not like the others” as the refrain of one of its frequently used songs, is it possible that the producers/writers have sportsbook line shopping in mind?
OK, probably not for the long-running PBS children’s show, but the sports betting community may as well adopt the ditty as the theme song for the wisdom of comparing different online sportsbooks to find numbers offering the best value.
The 32 teams’ win totals posted as potential NFL bets offer an excellent and timely reminder of the benefits of line shopping as the preseason gets underway in earnest this week.
Now maybe you envision yourself as a pro football savant who simply says, “Oh, I know what team’s going to exceed expectations, because player X is back from injury, they drafted player Y, and they added the best inside linebackers coach in NFL history, so I’m going to bet on them.”
More power to you if you have superpowers to beat the vig in that manner (though you should still compare different sportsbooks’ prices to get the best number), but this article isn’t really for you.
This is more for those don’t know or care about the difference between Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Chiefs cornerback Lamar Jackson. If you’re lost on which Harbaugh or which Shanahan is coaching which team, no worries here. We’re here to tell you it probably doesn’t matter for betting purposes.
The best thing a bettor can do in the eternal fight against the sportsbooks is simply to find numbers that are out of place. If there are six prominent sportsbooks listing odds and win totals for all NFL teams, and one has numbers that vary significantly from the rest, then there’s potential value in betting that that sportsbook is missing something the others realize.
So for this futures-bets exercise, we’ve looked at the season win totals listed this week by six prominent national online sportsbooks — FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, Barstool Sportsbook, and PointsBet. We looked for examples of lines that are “not like the others.”
They may not be bets that win, but for those willing to tie up money for five months in order to be in action on any given Sunday, the seven wagers below offer potential value at their current number. And if you are in a legal betting state, there’s a good chance the number is available, at least for now.
Arizona Cardinals u4.5 wins (Caesars, +100)
There is nothing good to say at this stage about the 2023 iteration of the Arizona Cardinals, who won exactly four games last year. The entire coaching staff is a new and unknown quantity (not a bad thing in and of itself, compared to the Kliff Kingsbury regime), and 37-year-old perennial backup Colt McCoy is the expected quarterback for at least a month due to Kyler Murray’s recovery from ACL surgery.
But as with everything else in this article, this is more about the numbers on the web or app than expectations on the field. On Monday, four of the sites were adding to the normal vig by making it -120 to bet Arizona under 4.5 wins. Caesars stood apart, making the bet a plus-money return of +105. It made an adjustment in the direction of the others by Tuesday morning, offering +100 (or even money), but that’s still a stark difference from its peers.
You might consider betting against Arizona at that number and then sit back to enjoy every putrid performance.
Detroit Lions u9.5 wins (BetMGM, +120)
By winning eight of their final 10 games in 2022 to finish 9-8, on top of the national hype they’d already received under fiery coach Dan Campbell, the Lions are expected to be better than in a long, long time. They’re favored to win the NFC North, now that for the first time in many decades Green Bay no longer has a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
But that doesn’t mean Detroit has to be great, or even better. They still have that wretched modern-era Lions history to overcome. The sportsbooks all feature odds deeming Detroit likely to win more than 9.5 games, and BetMGM projects that outcome even more than the others. That makes it the right place for skeptics unwilling to jump aboard the Lions’ bandwagon until they prove something.
FanDuel and DraftKings are both making the Lions under 9.5 wins just an even-money proposition. At +120, BetMGM is offering a much nicer potential profit for those who think they’re still a year away — or maybe a lifetime away — from achieving greater glory.
Green Bay Packers u7.5 wins (Caesars, +120)
The Packers won eight games last year with Aaron Rodgers, so the question is whether they can do at least that well with an untested Jordan Love behind center. If the answer is no, then Caesars is willing to give you a handsome return for guessing correctly.
Among the six sportsbooks evaluated here, the five others all make Green Bay under 7.5 wins to be an even-money bet. Only Caesars does better for such pessimists, and it does substantially better, as opposed to just going to +105 or +110.
Is Caesars playing chess while the rest are playing checkers? Is it deliberately luring all kinds of anti-Packers bettors, when it knows full well that Jordan Love will defy its 50/1 odds to be named MVP and lead the team easily above seven wins? Hmm … we may take our chances that’s not the case.
Los Angeles Chargers u9.5 wins (Caesars, +120)
The Chargers bring a lot of good players back, starting with quarterback Justin Herbert, from a team that won 10 games in 2022. But things always seem to conspire against the Chargers achieving their potential, as in losing a playoff game they led 27-0.
For those who just don’t think the Chargers have it in them to surpass or even match 2022, Caesars is once more the place to be. All of the sites make Los Angeles a strong favorite to get to 10 or more victories, with Caesars making its price -140 for that wager. To go the other way and bet against them, the best under-9.5 price among the rest is +105, so again, Caesars is out on a limb of its own for those who want to perch there.
Minnesota Vikings o8.5 wins (DraftKings, -110)
On the one hand, the Vikings seem like a team that should perennially be set at o/u 8.5 wins as a franchise defined by the fine line between decency and mediocrity. On the other, they incredibly went 13-4 last year by winning every close contest.
Oddsmakers tend to discount such unusual patterns, figuring everything will come back to the norm. The 8.5 number means Minnesota ought to be ordinary again, but there’s still an edge in how to make use of that number.
Five of the six sites all make Minnesota a strong favorite to go over 8.5, increasing the juice to prices ranging from Barstool’s -125 to Caesars’ -145, with the others in-between. But out on its own island is DraftKings with the normal -110, evidently lacking as much confidence as others that Justin Jefferson can repeat his ungodly season and that so many balls will bounce the right way that the Vikes will be over .500 again.
New England Patriots u7.5 wins (BetMGM, -115)
It’s been a long time since anyone pegged the Patriots to finish last in their division, which is the consensus this year, but the oddsmakers have lost so much faith in Bill Belichick’s coaching superpowers that an under .500 record is projected for his team this year. The question for bettors is how much under .500, because an 8-9 record would still win money for “over” bettors here.
The sportsbooks generally make under 7.5 a strong favorite, probably because the rest of the AFC East appears so strong and no one thinks a whole lot of quarterback Mac Jones or the rest of the Pats’ offense. For instance, betting the under requires laying juice of -142 with FanDuel. But BetMGM has a bit more faith in Jones or Belichick or someone, in that it’s offering -105 on over 7.5 wins and -115 on under 7.5 wins.
For those who have been waiting a long time to enjoy New England’s demise, BetMGM is where they want to be right now.
Tennessee Titans o7.5 wins (Barstool, -105)
Here’s another franchise that could be in free fall despite a coach widely regarded among the league’s best in Mike Vrabel. His team beset by injuries lost its last seven games last year to finish 7-10, and it doesn’t figure to help quarterback Ryan Tannehill and star running back Derrick Henry to be a year older in 2023.
Still, the AFC South is considered one of the lesser divisions, and the Titans did pick up receiver DeAndre Hopkins to give 35-year-old Tannehill another weapon. So the oddsmakers generally make Tennessee a strong favorite to go over 7.5 wins, with the price for that going as high as -130 at PointsBet. At Barstool, however, their numbers team has deemed the Titans more likely to go under, by making that price -115 as opposed to -105 for the over.
They are not like the others. If you want to take advantage of that, it’s entirely up to you. Just don’t make the cardinal sin of getting a worse number elsewhere if you do bet on the Titans. Big Bird and Elmo wouldn’t like it any more than we would.